18 Oct 2005

Tuvalu hails UN proposal for environmental refugees

6:01 pm on 18 October 2005

Tuvalu has welcomed United Nations proposals which would allow those fleeing environmental degradation to be designated refugees.

The Tuvalu prime minister, Maatia Toafa, says resettlement is one option for his people, should the greenhouse effect force up sea-levels and swamp his country.

The United Nations University has recently proposed extending refugee status to include those escaping environmental damage.

Governments have a legal obligation to accept these people under the terms of international conventions.

Mr Toafa says if predictions of climate change do indeed come true then Tuvalu will need international help.

"That is a very sad situation as well, but if we can help it, we will continue to fight our case, but if we can't help it then we'll have to accept what is best for us."

Mr Toafa says Tuvalu hasn't signed any agreements with countries to accept any of its people.